I've just finished up another month of the Around the World in 80 Books challenge. The idea of the challenge is to read books set in 80 different countries, effectively exploring the world from the comfort of your armchair. Since my last update, I've read books set in five more countries – Botswana, Ethiopia, Egypt, Liberia and Romania.
That makes a total of 55 books since I started the challenge - only 25 more to go!
You can read more about the challenge here, as well as check out Update #1, Update #2, Update #3, Update #4, Update #5, Update #6, Update #7, Update #8, Update #9 and Update #10.
THE WOMAN WHO WALKED IN SUNSHINE by Alexander McCall Smith | Botswana
The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine is the 16th in the No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency mystery series set in Botswana. I've read a few of the books in the series before and always found them charming and cheerful. This one was no exception. The main character, Mma Precious Ramotswe, is a "traditionally built" lady who opened up the first female owned detective agency in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana. In The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine, Mma Ramotswe takes her first holiday ever, but instead of relaxing, ends up rescuing a troubled boy and getting drawn into a complicated case regarding a potential scandal involving a politician.
The books are fun and easy reads which provide insights into Botswanan culture and observations on everyday life, such as the time Mma Ramotswe decides to sort through her husband's clothes. I could definitely relate to what she experienced.
"There were several shirts that had lost buttons, and she suspected that lurking in his sock drawer were socks that had long since lost their partners and could be thrown away. Men, she thought, were odd about their clothes: they liked to wear the same things until they became defeated and threadbare. For this reason, it was up to wives and girlfriends to weed out the old and outdated. The men would complain, of course, but they did not care enough about clothes to make too much of a fuss, and if you replaced a favorite item with something new, they would very quickly forget about the whole matter."You can find out more about The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine on Goodreads and pick up a copy on Amazon.
BLACK DOVE, WHITE RAVEN by Elizabeth Wein | Ethiopia
Black Dove, White Raven is a young adult novel about two children, Emily and Teo, whose mothers flew a stunt plane together n the 1930s. A bird strike cause the plane to crash, killing Teo's mother, but sparing Emily's mother, Rhoda. Rhoda decides to take the children to Ethiopia where her now-adopted son, Teo, can be raised alongside her white daughter in a land where they won't face discrimination. At first things go well in their new land, but when war with Italy looms, both Emily and Teo get drawn into the conflict.
The book is fascinating not only for its exploration of themes involving aviation and friendship, but also for the depiction of Ethiopian culture including the Ethiopian Church which dates back to the first century.
"People get more dressed up for Timkat than for anything else in the whole year. The priests are in velvet and silk robes embroidered with gold, and tiered silver crowns that look like wedding cakes, and everybody yodels and shakes bells and beats drums, and there are musicians in white shammas with big red stripes around the hem. The priests from the village church, Beta Markos, carry their copies of the sacred tabot around town for everyone to admire (even though you can’t actually see it, because it’s all wrapped up in silk), and then they take it up to the St. Kristos Samra hermitage on Beehive Hill, because there is an extremely weedy pool cut in the rock there, which they use to re-enact Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River."
You can find out more about Black Dove, White Raven on Goodreads and pick up a copy on Amazon.
THE CURSE OF THE PHARAOHS by Elizabeth Peters (aka Barbara Mertz) | Egypt
The Curse of the Pharaohs is the second in the Amelia Peabody historical mystery series. It takes place during an archaeological excavation in the late 1800s at a tomb in the Valley of the Kings that Amelia Peabody's husband, Emerson, had been hired to lead. I was interested in reading The Curse of the Pharaohs for two reasons: (1) I've been to the Valley of the Kings and (2) Scott's an archaeologist and I thought it would be fun to read about early Egyptian excavations. Amelia Peabody is the kind of amateur detective I like - independent, feisty, intelligent and fearless. The book is written in the first person which I think works well as you really get to see things through her eyes as a woman in the Victorian era, as well as her sometimes sarcastic take on people and events.
"As our patient beasts plodded across the sand, I allowed Emerson to remain a few feet ahead, a position he much enjoys and seldom obtains. I could see by the arrogant set of his shoulders that he fancied himself in the role of gallant commander, leading his troops; and I saw no reason to point out that no man can possibly look impressive on donkey-back, particularly when his legs are so long he must hold them out at a forty-five-degree angle to keep his feet from dragging on the ground."
You can find out more about The Curse of the Pharaohs on Goodreads and pick up a copy on Amazon.
ECLIPSED by Danai Gurira | Liberia
One of the things I wanted to do as part of this challenge was to read things I wouldn't normally read. When I saw that Eclipsed was available at my library, I knew it would be perfect for this challenge - not only did it tick Liberia off of the list, it was also a script for a play. I think the last time I read a play was in high school. Reading a play is so different than reading a novel. I found that I needed to read slowly and almost say the lines out loud to really get the full impact.
Eclipsed is a play set in 2003 during the Second Liberian Civil War. It focuses on five women - two who were kidnapped and forced to be the “wives” (aka sex slaves) of the Commanding Officer, a 15 year old girl who they try to protect from the Commanding Officer, a female soldier who tries to persuade the girl to join the army and an upper-class, well-educated member of the Liberian Women’s Initiative. Eclipsed was the first play with an all black and an all female creative cast and team to premiere on Broadway . The play highlights the atrocities that occurred during the civil war and the horrendous toll it took on women. In this passage, Helena describes how the Commanding Officer has cursed himself by killing mothers and children.
"HELENA: He saying de food it taste funny and he tink someone or some spirit trying to kill him. He put a curse on hisself. How God gonna bless a man when he killin moda an chile and stealin and chopping. Den he wonda why he scared of spirits. He want me to make more food and to put dis in it (She holds up a small pouch.) He really scare coz o de people comin."
You can find out more about Eclipsed in this New York Times article.
I AM FORBIDDEN by Anouk Markovits | Transylvania (Romania)
I am Forbidden opens in Transylvania (present-day Romania) in the late 1930s where a young Jewish boy, Josef, sees his family killed by the Romanian Iron Guard. His family's maid, a Christian, raises Josef as her own, hiding his Jewish faith so that he isn't a target of the Iron Guard. A few years later, Josef rescues Mila, a young Jewish girl whose parents were killed when they tried to escape Romania. Josef helps Mila find refuge with another Jewish family, where she is raised alongside their daughter, Atara, as Hasidic Jews in Paris. As they grow up, one of the girls chooses to marry within her faith, while the other one questions the restrictions placed on her and eventually leaves the Hasidic community.
I am Forbidden was an interesting way to learn more about the persecution Jews faced in Romania, the traditions and beliefs of Hasidism and the consequences that can arise from the difficult choices people make when it comes to their religious beliefs.
"Summer, a fence was erected behind the shrine, along the tracks skirting the horse meadow. On this side of the fence was Romania; on the other side was Hungary. One this side of the fence, men started to wear the armband of the Legion of the Archangel Michael, the Iron Guard."
You can find out more about I am Forbidden on Goodreads and pick up a copy on Amazon.
If you're participating in the challenge too, I'd love to hear what you've been reading. Even if you're not doing the challenge, let us know what books you've been enjoying lately.
COUNTRIES READ TO DATE: Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, the Bahamas, Bolivia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, Czech Republic, Djibouti, England, Estonia, Ethiopia, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Haiti, Iceland, India, Iran, Ireland, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mexico, Nigeria, North Korea, Norway, Paraguay, Republic of Kiribati, Romania, Russia, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Slovenia, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, United States, Vanuatu, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.
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